Playing Poker Against Bad Players: How To Play Fish?

A common complaint from new poker players who are just starting to get into poker strategy is that they can’t beat all the bad poker players or “the fish.” I’m sorry to tell you this, but if you can’t learn how to beat these players, you won’t profit from poker because the goal of a player is always to earn income against weak players.

Bad players or fish should be the source of most of your profits, so knowing how to beat them is essential. 

There are two types of bad poker players. There are bad aggressive poker players and bad passive poker players. The bad aggressive poker players are in my opinion the most profitable poker players to face, again the rarest, we meet them much less often than the bad passive players.

Your profit against bad aggressive players will come from causing them to bluff you enormously or having your bets paid. Against bad passive players, you will win money by making better hands than your opponent and by betting hard.

Categorization of fish

Aggressive Fish: Typically have a high VPIP (Percentage of Hands Played) and a high percentage of pre-flop raises and are generally incredibly aggressive after the flop. It is not uncommon to see a 77/55 (Play 77% of hands preflop and raise 55% of them) The most common trait about them is the frequency of super high aggression.

They will bet way too much without a hand or any other form of equity. Against these players you have to plan ahead in the hand, you have to know what you are going to face on a check / raise on the flop before you even bet.

Aggressive fish usually do a lot of things that don’t make sense. Typically they have no idea what the reach or the reading of the hand is, so they will make a lot of mistakes. You have to be able to spot bets that “don’t make sense”, or spot when you can bet to make your hand profitable.

Essentially, you will find a ton of places where aggressive fish bet, but their bluff range is so wide that you have to know how to pay at the right times.

Passive fish : Passive fish although probably less profitable than aggressive fish (aggressive fish quickly lose their money and disappear forever) is much more prevalent in the online poker scene. Categorized by almost always having a high VPIP and low PFR, as well as a low aggressiveness factor and aggressiveness frequency. Example stats could be 40/10/1 (Play 40% of hands, raise 10% and have an aggressiveness factor of 1).

Passive fish are passive so won’t bet a lot, when they do they will usually have a hand (but that’s not always the case, you can get passive players who hardly ever bet, but when they do, they are. bluffing… I know, totally strange, right?). The biggest thing you need to know about passive fish is that they like to pay a lot and don’t like to fold.

What this means is that you can basically make money by making your hands profitable, but you shouldn’t try to bluff them because they are likely to pay you out with mediocre hands. Don’t try to bluff passive fish!

They won’t notice that you give up the 3/4 pots you play with them and the 4th time you bet each street with top pair they will still call you out with mid pair.

Other tips for playing bad poker players

Isolating fish is of great importance for making money.

Don’t underplay your big hands. Especially against passive fish, passive fish don’t bet a lot, so you will lose too much money checking and waiting for them to bet. There may be some merit in slowplaying (underplaying a big hand) against an aggressive fish because they will keep bluffing.

However, on the draw flops, you’ll want to bet or raise for the aggressive fish to do something stupid, like a show shove allin with low pair or a marginal draw.